ANNAPOLIS – Abolishing the office of lieutenant governor would save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year that could be used to hire more state police or care for the elderly, a Baltimore County lawmaker argued Tuesday.
The lieutenant governor mostly cuts ribbons, kisses babies and “chairs some committees once in a while,” Del. John S. Arnick told members of the House Commerce and Government Matters Committee.
“We’ve created a job that has absolutely nothing to do except succeed the governor,” said Arnick, a Democrat.
But Committee Chairman Gerald J. Curran, D-Baltimore, said after the hearing that Arnick’s proposed constitutional amendment is not likely to advance to the House floor.
Under the Maryland Constitution, the lieutenant governor is responsible for only those duties the governor assigns. He or she also would serve out a governor’s term were the governor to leave office unexpectedly.
Under Arnick’s bill to abolish the job, the General Assembly would pick the governor’s successor, as it did for more than a century while the state did not have a lieutenant governor.
The office was created in 1864, abolished in 1868 and restored in 1970 in a statewide referendum.
Voters approved the office 26 years ago because they wanted a say in who succeeds the governor, Curran said.
The vote, Curran noted, took place after Marvin Mandel was tapped as governor by the General Assembly, on the strength of House votes he largely controlled as speaker. Mandel succeeded former Gov. Spiro T. Agnew, who was elected vice president of the United States in 1968.
“As far as we know the people still support the office of lieutenant governor,” Curran said.
Arnick said former Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg did nothing of importance during much of his tenure in office after former Gov. William Donald Schaefer refused to assign him any duties.
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend did not appear at the afternoon hearing, but her chief of staff, Alan H. Fleischmann, told lawmakers he could not recall his boss ever having gone to a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Townsend has played an important role in the state’s anti- crime efforts, Fleischmann said. She has chaired a council on juvenile crime, assisted in a crackdown on gun trafficking and helped launch an inquiry into domestic violence, he said.
“This is a hands-on lieutenant governor,” Fleischmann told lawmakers.
Countering, Arnick said Gov. Parris N. Glendening had taken credit for those same anti-crime initiatives in press releases.
According to the Department of Fiscal Services, Arnick’s bill would save about $300,000, a third of which is the lieutenant governor’s salary. The rest pays for staff and travel.
Fleischmann characterized Schaefer’s treatment of Steinberg as a “sad situation” but said Glendening and Townsend enjoy a good working relationship. -30-